After helping pound out the DLC's take on Bush's SOTU (to sum it up, we were unimpressed and unintimidated), I had the chance to appear on one of my very favorite NPR gabfests, Warren Olney's To the Point. My anticipation of spirited warfare was heightened when the producer told me I would be pitted against Cato/Club for Growth chieftain Steven Moore, who is a High Church Social Security Privatizer.
But my bloodlust dissipated when my opening gambit--the absurdity of a president who has deliberately engineered a real and immediate fiscal crisis demanding that Congress show "responsibility" by taking on a dubious and remote Social Security "crisis"--met with basic agreement from Moore, who was as exercised as I was by the casual treatment of the budget crisis by Bush last night. I also got the distinct impression that Moore knows Bush's SocSec initiative is pretty much for show, since the highest praise he could muster for the purported Privatizer-in-Chief is that he was brave to draw attention to the issue.
Libertarians generally make me nuts, but sometimes they offer a refreshing refusal to completely buy in to the tactical alliance they have forged with a Republican Party dominated by corporate porkmeisters, cultural warriors, and neocon empire-builders.
In case you have an unslaked thirst for essence-of-SOTU, check out Dana Milbank's painstaking WaPo account of who stood, who sat, who clapped, and who looked like a fidgety nine-year-old at church, during the speech. He also reveals it was Rep. Bobby Jindal of LA, without question one of the smartest people in the GOP, who came up with the purple-ink-stain idea, which gave Republican backbenchers something useful to do other than hooting and hollering at every other Bush line.
Purely in terms of entertainment value, last night's speech made me long for the days of divided government. One of the most interesting features of Bill Clinton's post-1994 SOTUs was watching Newt and Al Gore react to the president's applause lines, right there behind him, like cheerleaders forced to dance and prance on the field ten feet from every play. Would Newt screw up and fail to stand and applaud every time veterans were mentioned? Would Gore remember to nod sagely at the Chief's wisdom on the full panoply of issues? Watching Cheney and Hastert move sluggishly in tandem last night was not nearly so much fun.